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HKTDC enhances digital experience for SMEs amid pandemic

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HKTDC enhances digital experience for SMEs amid pandemic

Upgraded sourcing platform, virtual fair boost business connections
The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has upgraded its hktdc.com sourcing platform in the run-up to the “Autumn Sourcing Week | Online” virtual exhibition, helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) capture global business opportunities and adapt to digital sourcing models in the new normal.

HKTDC Deputy Executive Director Benjamin Chau PHOTOS COURTESY OF HONG KONG TRADE DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

HKTDC Deputy Executive Director Benjamin Chau stressed how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the sourcing pattern of many companies and accelerated the transformation of the global supply chain.

“The latest HKTDC survey shows that Hong Kong companies are adjusting their business strategies to cope with the new normal. Sixty-nine percent of companies are increasingly going digital to expand their online distribution channels, 56 percent conduct online marketing, 57 percent develop new business markets while 47 percent accelerate the application of technology in their business,” Chau said.

He further observed that trade activities were on the rise in the third quarter of 2020, with a rebound in Hong Kong’s total exports.

The easy-to-use hktdc.com sourcing platform allows local businesses to customize online store pages and upload rich content and images.

While physical trade fairs cannot be held at present, he called on local businesses to leverage HKTDC’s digital platforms and services to tap into various markets, especially economies that have signed free trade agreements with the city such as Mainland China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

“Mainland China is probably the only economy in the world that will see positive gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2020, and its ‘dual circulation’ model of development with an emphasis on the domestic economy will stimulate consumption growth. As a major trade fair hub in Asia, Hong Kong can play a pivotal role in attracting more local and international brands and products to the mainland market,” he added.

Business opportunities via omni-channel platform
The “Autumn Sourcing Week | Online” exhibition started on Nov. 16 and concludes on Nov. 27, following the completion of a significant upgrade to the hktdc.com sourcing platform.

“Our refreshed design as well as new features deliver a better, more personalized smart-sourcing experience anytime and anywhere. We have also employed new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to increase the efficiency through which we connect buyers with suppliers and improve the overall user experience,” he explained.

According to him, HKTDC will continue to enhance its online services to help Hong Kong businesses capture opportunities. He believes physical and online exhibitions should integrate and complement each other.

Autumn Sourcing Week | Online, which opened on Nov. 16, has attracted 2,600 exhibitors from 33 countries, including 37 pavilions across 11 industries.

“Even when physical exhibitions resume, HKTDC will continue to organize regular thematic online sourcing events to cater to the different sourcing cycles of various sectors, providing exhibitors with additional opportunities to connect with global buyers,” he continued.

“Fully utilizing the advantages of online-to-offline promotion, we will carry out digital promotions and business-matching activities before and after the trade fairs, allowing exhibitors to reach out to overseas buyers who could not come to Hong Kong and help create an extended exhibition experience,” he added.

The easy-to-use platform allows local businesses to customize online store pages and upload rich content, videos and images. It employs image recognition technology to swiftly provide keyword suggestions for relevant products, enabling target buyers to find the right products more easily.

Suppliers can also examine page-performance data from the dashboard anytime, helping to improve supply chain management and making it easier to assess marketing effectiveness. It records buyers’ preferences and recommends relevant new products to them as well.

“Local businesses are also provided with the option to purchase promotion ‘boosters’ based on their business needs and promotion strategies. This gives them the flexibility to increase their exposure on hktdc.com sourcing platform pages and enhance their reach to potential business partners,” Chau said.

“In addition, the NewsBites content page introduces the latest sourcing trends and popular products. It also pushes notifications via social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to encourage more prospective buyers from around the world to visit suppliers’ online stores on our platform.”

Flexible services to meet marketing needs
“The new supplier authentication system classifies companies on the platform into Gold, Silver and Bronze categories based on reputation and activeness. A record of companies’ participation at HKTDC events and their last update time are also provided, serving as a reference for buyers as they seek out the most suitable suppliers,” Chau said.

The Third Party Authentication Service, meanwhile, allows suppliers to highlight their credibility and product quality to strengthen buyer confidence.

Digital Academy
To provide SMEs with comprehensive free-of-charge assistance and training in the area of digital marketing, HKTDC has also launched the Digital Academy.

These pragmatic, easy-to-understand courses, conducted by digital marketing experts, explore a variety of topics including search-engine optimisation (SEO), search-engine marketing (SEM), social-media content marketing, product photography, filming, copywriting techniques and ecommerce business strategies.

For example, award-winning film director Oliver Chan shares some of the secrets behind creating video content for digital platforms.

More trade promotion organizations sign up
Trade promotion organizations such as the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and others from Italy, Korea and Qatar have set up cluster zones on hktdc.com to promote products from their members as well as brands and industries in their respective countries and regions.

Tomohiro Takashima, Director General of JETRO’s Hong Kong office, said the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on physical trade activities between Japan and Hong Kong, and that more Japanese exporters exploring overseas markets have switched to online marketing.

“We were pleased to learn that HKTDC had launched an upgraded hktdc.com sourcing online platform. Using the customized online and social media promotion plan offered by HKTDC, we have set up a page on the platform featuring more than 150 Japanese suppliers of houseware, healthcare and beauty products and more,” Takashima said.

“I am confident that the platform can effectively connect Japanese businesses with buyers from Hong Kong and other markets and create business opportunities for all parties concerned. We plan to scale up the page gradually to feature more suppliers from different industries,” he added.

Federation of Hong Kong Industries Chairman Daniel Ip said times are tough for Hong Kong exporters amid the pandemic. Online sales and promotion have become a dominant trend in the industry, leading the federation to set up a dedicated page on the upgraded hktdc.com sourcing online platform to help members promote their products.

“I am delighted that the timely launch of the upgraded platform offers local SMEs an effective channel to connect with overseas buyers. In addition, the Digital Academy offers free courses to equip them with digital marketing capabilities to meet the challenges posed by the post-Covid new normal,” Ip added.

11 industries from 33 countries
Under the theme “A New Connected World Beyond The New Normal,” Autumn Sourcing Week | Online (ASWO) has attracted 2,600 exhibitors from 33 countries, including 37 group pavilions.

The virtual trade fair features the latest products from 11 industries including electronics, houseware, lighting, outdoor lighting, eco tech, gifts and premiums, toys, baby products, stationery, optical as well as watches and clocks.

“This is a one-stop sourcing platform where suppliers can generate new business while buyers can restock for the year ahead,” Chau said.

ASWO offers a new 3D virtual booth where exhibitors can promote their brands and products through a unique presentation.

New 3D virtual booths enable exhibitors to promote brands and products through a unique presentation, like toys exhibitor Eastcolight.

The Environment Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) features an interactive “Hong Kong • GO Green” virtual tour, introducing the latest waste management facilities as well as virtual reality demonstration of the latest noise reduction system.

Cyberport’s 3D virtual booth brings 14 start-ups showcasing innovative technologies such as mobile applications, consumer electronics, e-health, robotics and wearable devices. There are also spectacular 3D booths by exhibitors of optical, toys and baby products.

Additionally, ASWO features the AI-driven Click2Match business-matching platform, which supports meeting scheduling, video meetings, live-chat sessions, contact exchange and other functions to provide a richer online sourcing and networking experience for buyers and exhibitors.

“We mobilize our global office network to actively invite quality buyers to participate in AWSO. Virtual business-matching meetings are being arranged based on buyers’ sourcing needs, promoting business opportunities between buyers and exhibitors,” he explained.

The ASWO Intelligence Hub also features more than 20 webinars with over 100 leading industry figures sharing their insights. Five of the webinars have been pre-approved under the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) program. There are four main series:

“The SmartTech” series – of which the highlight was the “Symposium on Innovation & Technology – A New Connected World Beyond the New Normal” held on Nov.16, had Hong Kong Television Network Limited Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ricky Wong, Professor Yuen Kwok-yung from the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, and representatives from Google, Amazon, KPMG and renowned scholars from the United States – sharing insights on how innovative technologies like AI, 5G and the cloud are reshaping the post-pandemic world.

“The Lifestyle” series on Nov. 18 had the LEGO Group sharing consumer insights and marketing strategies for toys in the Greater China region at the Hong Kong Toys Industry Conference, while the Hong Kong International Watch Forum discussed manufacturing trends in the watchmaking industry.

“The Green and Sustainability” series – Eco Asia Conference on Nov. 19, 20 and 20 was powered by the Environment Bureau, with the Secretary for the Environment of the HKSAR Government and officials from Guangdong and Macao sharing the latest progress in environmental protection work in the Greater Bay Area.

Meanwhile, “The Business Essentials” series feature webinars on practical tips for SMEs and the latest regional/market opportunities.

Chau expected that HKTDC can resume its physical trade fairs in March 2021 at the earliest.

“We hope the HKSAR Government can reach agreement with more countries to establish ‘travel bubbles’ and promote cross-boundary business travel, making it possible to resume international physical trade fairs in Hong Kong and continue to create business opportunities for local traders,” he said.

Relevant websites
hktdc.com Sourcing promotional video: https://bit.ly/35isopP

Autumn Sourcing Week | ONLINE promotional video: https://youtu.be/FhLVABfKjdo